GroundTruth Blog

Talking POPs in Geneva

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by Pesticide Action Network

PAN and our partners have been on the ground in Geneva this week, participating in the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC8)

Here at this annual gathering of scientists and policymakers from around the world, chemicals are considered for addition to the Stockholm Convention. This international treaty bans or restricts use of chemicals deemed to be "persistent organic pollutants" (POPs) due to their harmful impacts on health and their long-lasting presence in the environment.

The week-long meeting is a review of the technical evidence gathered for chemicals that are in different stages of the POPs review process. Some POPs are pesticides, though not all, with DDT, endosulfan and lindane being examples of pesticides currently listed under the Stockholm Convention.

Several other organizations are represented at the meeting in Geneva alongside PAN, including Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Greenpeace, the International POPs Elimination Network and the Inuit Circumpolar Council. PAN's staff scientist Emily Marquez is representing PAN North America, and reports that work of NGO team has been effective at the meeting:

It's heartening to see so many gathered to work together to protect human health and the environment from POPs.

There are others in Geneva with an ulterior motive. As reported in a previous blog, representatives from the chemical and pesticide industry show up and actively engage in the POPRC process, with an eye toward creating roadblocks and controversy when their products are negatively reviewed. Like the NGO groups, most of the industry folk cluster together in the meeting room, around the edges of the POPRC round table.

Making headway

At times, it appears that the process of reviewing potential POPs moves all too slowly. Three of four chemicals that were open for discussion in 2010 are still under consideration. Still, there is plenty of hopeful progress here as well.

On the first day of this weeklong session in Geneva, all of the pollutants brought into question were deemed to have sufficient evidence to be moved along in the process. Very good news.

On the second day, a report by Dr. Meriel Watts of PAN Asia Pacific on guidelines for non-chemical alternatives (read: agroecological farming alternatives) to the now-banned pesticide endosulfan was also passed along without any objections. Several developing countries have shown great interest in Dr. Watts' report — again, promising news.

PAN is also distributing yet another report here by Dr. Meriel Watts, Chlorpyrifos as a Global POP. With support from PAN North America, Dr. Watts compiled the scientific evidence needed to start a conversation around the ubiquitous organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos. In addition to being neurotoxic and having serious consequences for brain development in kids, chlorpyrifos possesses long-range transport characteristics. It can travel on wind and water to places far from the source of its original use —like the Arctic, where POPs contamination is of serious ongoing concern.

PAN's advocacy in Geneva this week is helping to move the conversation on agroecology and chlorpyrifos forward, both at the global level and back home in the U.S.

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